Sunday, September 07, 2008

New Discovery Health Program

Sorry I have not been posting. Vacation and school preparation got in the way.

Discovery Health will be airing a program on October 1st called "Autism X6" which profiles a family in which all 6 children have been diagnosed somewhere on the spectrum. Here is a press release.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Resources for Learning to Tie Shoelaces

Shoe tying is still a challenge in our household. When I saw this post in ParentHacks, I thought it might be a good one to share. Check out the links in the comments, too.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Advice for Employers

Here is a document created by something called the Job Accomodation Network (ultimately part of the US Department of Labor) entitled "Employees with Asperger Syndrome". It looks like it could be very useful for employers who might not know much about AS. It's full of simple, specific suggestions for supervisors. This could be a great help for parents of young adults trying to ensure a positive first experience for someone with AS.

I found this via the PDF Search Engine. Just type in a term like "Asperger" and you will find all sorts of interesting things. You will need a PDF reader like Adobe Acrobat in order to view these documents.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Reading Fiction Improves Social Skills

A group of Toronto researchers discover that "readers of narrative fiction scored higher on tests of empathy and social acumen than those who read non-fiction texts. And follow-up research showed that reading fiction may help fine-tune these skills: People assigned to read a New Yorker short story did better on social reasoning tests than those who read an essay from the same magazine.

Full article here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

New Study Pinpoints 6 Autism Genes

"Research on large Middle Eastern families has helped scientists pinpoint six new genes implicated in autism, a new study published Thursday said.
The research "strongly supports the emerging idea that autism stems from disruptions in the brain's ability to form new connections in response to experience -- consistent with autism's onset during the first year of life when many of these connections are normally made," a team led by researchers at Children's Hospital Boston and members of the Autism Consortium said."
Full article here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Children Sought for Study

"Autistic children sought for medical study
SEATTLE - Scientists searching for the causes of autism are taking a new and hard look at families who have only one child with the developmental disorder, according to the University of Washington. Recent research has shown that the majority of autism cases occur in families with just one child who has disorder, and that's why the University of Washington's autism center is seeking 200 Washington and Oregon families to participate in a new North American study. Parents who would like to enroll their families in the study or who have questions may contact Erin Kipple, project coordinator, at 1 (800) 944-9701 or, according to the announcement. Other institutions participating in the study are Baylor, Columbia, Emory, Harvard, McGill, Vanderbilt, Washington and Yale universities and the universities of California, Los Angeles; Illinois at Chicago, Michigan and Missouri."
-the Chronicle

More info here on studies at the University of Washington Autism Center. While you are there, you might want to browse around a bit. There is some information for parents/caregivers, a page of autism facts, and access to free online copies of research articles from scholarly journals.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Teen with AS Aims High

I love stories like this one reported by Barbara Hollingsworth in the Topeka Capital-Journal about a teen with Asperger's Syndrome who has been selected to serve as a Congressional Page this summer in Washington, DC. Ben Berlin will be working for Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Kan.

ZAC Browser

This is cribbed directly from {A}:
Brian Bergstein reports for ABC News about a man who created an Internet browser for children on the spectrum:
"The Zac Browser greatly simplifies the experience of using a computer. It seals off most Web sites from view, to block violent, sexual or otherwise adult-themed material. Instead it presents a hand-picked slate of choices from free, public Web sites, with an emphasis on educational games, music, videos and visually entertaining images, like a virtual aquarium."

Try it out here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sensory Integration Classroom

Newspaper articles that discuss sensory integration are rare. Here is a good one by Ginny Miller of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fitness for Children with Autism

Fitness Therapist Eric Chessen writes about creating exercise programs for children with autism. He has also created a DVD called "Beyond Boundaries: Fitness for the Young Autism Population." His article is here. Information about the DVD is here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Online Videos

The UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institue has posted online videos from their Distinguished Lecturer Series. Take a look here.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Challenges and Triumph

This is an inspiring piece from the Poughkeepsie Journal by Jesse Saperstein, a man with Asperger's Syndrome who hiked 2,174 miles to raise money to treat pediatric AIDS. Saperstein reminds us that "integrity and perseverance are common and often overlooked traits of mild autism."
He continues:
"My advice for other individuals with high-functioning autism is both optimistic and realistic. People do judge a book by its cover, and first impressions will always be the most important. Therefore, it is sometimes necessary to "impose yourself" on the lives of those who come to knee-jerk conclusions about you. Tell them who you are and do not be modest about your accomplishments. The victories will inevitably follow."

Friday, April 18, 2008


It's Autism Month, and I feel inundated with "movie of the week" type stories about the "tragedy" and "suffering" of autism. So for once, I decided to create a post that is not about autism at all. It's about keeping perspective. These sites have provided me with inspiration, empathy and understanding for the great variety of experiences we all have as humans on this tiny planet. We are incredibly fortunate to be here at all. These sites remind me to enjoy the ride:

My Daily Insights - Get a free motivational quote every Monday through Thursday and an inspirational story on Friday

Foundation For a Better Life - Free inspirational quote delivered to your Inbox each day.

Writer's Almanac - This is also National Poetry Month. Writer's Almanac sends a free poem every day, along with a few paragraphs celebrating literary and other interesting events, and sharing biographical sketches of writers.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Better Brushing

Via AutismVox, here is an oral hygiene game that might help kids brush their teeth more throroughly. Here's the article by Colin Barras.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Call for Panelists in NJ

Call for Panelists
Mini-Conference on Inclusion Benefits and Strategies for Middle and High School
Stockton State College, Pomona, NJ
Saturday, April 26, 2008
9:30 am -12:30 pm

As a part of the Mini-Conference on Inclusion, we are organizing a panel session to explore and reflect on experiences with Inclusion practices in grades 8-12. Parents of middle and high school students who are receiving special education services are invited to join this discussion and share their experiences with inclusion in middle and high school. The panel portion of the mini-conference will last from 45 minutes to an hour and include diverse points of view including parents, teachers, and school staff.

Panelists will receive a $75 stipend and an appreciation gift for their time. Self-Advocates are invited to participate in the panel with their parents. Both parents and students will receive the stipend and gift for their participation. Continental breakfast and lunch are included.

If you are interested, please send an email to or call 609-442-4132 before Friday, April 18th. Please include a brief summary of your experience and tell us a little bit about yourself.Susan Coll-Guedes, Ed.M.Parent Group Specialist- START Project Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland & Salem Co.Statewide Parent Advocacy NetworkPhone: 609-442-4132 Email:

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Lego Therapy

Marie McCullough of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes of pediatric neuropsychologist Dr. Dan Legoff's approach to social skills therapy using a common interest among some children on the spectrum - Legos.
"In Legoff's opinion, too many popular strategies involve "skillstreaming" - systematically explaining, modeling, and role-playing acceptable social skills to children.
"I found that approach to be, first, boring and painful to go through for the kids. And second, it didn't seem to work," said the psychologist, who has treated children with neurological disabilities for 20 years. "I needed to find something that they could practice but that they would enjoy and be motivated to do."
About 15 years ago, during post-doctoral training in Honolulu, Legoff noticed that his autistic patients, most of them boys, ignored a playroom full of toys - except for Legos.
A hallmark of autism is an obsessive dedication to one or two interests or activities - typically involving taxonomies, mechanical systems, hierarchies.
"A couple kids came with Lego creations they made at home," Legoff recalled. "In the waiting room, these kids started talking to one another, which surprised their parents. These are kids that don't have any friends because they're socially rejected or isolated."
Thus was born the Lego Club."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Autism Coverage on CNN has a page devoted to coverage of autism. It looks like CNN television will be covering autism in their programming all day on Wednesday April 2.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Three Films Documenting the Experience of Autism

Sam Adams in the Los Angeles Times reports on three upcoming and recent films chronicling the lives of families touched by autism: "Autism: The Musical" (airing 3/26 - 3/30 on HBO), "Autism Every Day" (on the Sundance Channel on April 2), and "Her Name Is Sabine" (recently released on DVD, but it might be hard to find).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Money Matters

This article by Richard J. Dalton, Jr. in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review describes a major difficulty parents of children with ASDs face as their children reach maturity: how to keep them from making bad financial decisions and/or prevent them from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous salespeople.
Consider these numbers:
"An estimated 85 percent of the autistic population is younger than 18, and those diagnosed in the beginning of the wave of autism during the 1990s are reaching adulthood. The number of cases of autistic children and students served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act nearly doubled from 42,417 in 1997 to 79,586 in 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Education. "
The article explains:
"If autistic adults don't understand the nature of commerce, their parents face the prospect of seeking legal guardianship, taking away the very independence they've dreamed of for their son or daughter.
A guardian may have the legal right to make medical or financial decisions on behalf of the person under his care. Just as a minor cannot sign a contract, neither can a person, even an adult, whose financial affairs are handled by a guardian.
"A lot of times, that can be a really difficult decision for parents," said Wendy Fournier, president of the National Autism Association, in Nixa, Mo. "
Here's an illuminating tale from the article:
"Linda Fulton, founder and president of the Fulton Foundation for Autism, said her 23-year-old son Dunlap, or D.J., has a tremendous ability to memorize numbers, including, she discovered, her credit card's.
Five years ago, said Fulton, of Huntington Bay, her son called a Chicago car dealer to buy a Lamborghini. The salesperson told him he needed a transport company. So he found one online, giving his mother's credit card number for the $25,000 fee. Fulton received a phone call to confirm the transaction and canceled the order.
A few years ago, her son ordered $10,000 worth of model planes, which were delivered to the house. She returned them but had to pay delivery and return shipping.
Lately, her son has been pushing to buy the Quiet Supersonic Transport airplane, the $80-million replacement for the Concorde that's to be launched in the next decade. He's told his mother he'd settle for a ride.
"He said, 'It's only $225,000 to be on the first flight,'" Fulton said. "I don't have to worry about that until 2014."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Night of Too Many Stars

Jon Stewart will host "Night of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Benefit for Autism Education", broadcast live on Comedy Central on April 13th. According to this Associated Press article by Jake Coyle,
"The night will feature standup routines, sketches and short films from a gluttony of comic talent, including Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Conan O'Brien, Stephen Colbert, Sarah Silverman and Amy Poehler.
It's the second such benefit and was organized in part due to Robert Smigel, whose son, Daniel, is autistic. Smigel's most famous character, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, will also be attendance."

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Autism: The Musical

"Autism: The Musical" is a documentary film that follows five Los Angeles children over five months as they write, rehearse, and perform their own full-length musical. It airs on HBO on March 25th, with a DVD to follow.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Google Scholar

I just helped a customer by letting her know about Google Scholar. It offers free access to articles from academic journals. A lot of hits only show abstracts, but there is quite a bit of free full-text contet there, if you poke around a little. And it's free! If you go to, click on the "More" link - you should see "Scholar" listed as one of the choices.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Local News Relating to Autism

My local newspaper, The Asbury Park Press, was chock full of stories related to autism this morning. First, Shannon Mullen reports on a local composer named Steven Allen, who has written a rock opera called "Day After Day" about a family dealing with autism.

Michael Rispoli also reports on a package of six bills that recently passed through the Health Committee of the New Jersey Assembly. He states, "The package, sponsored by Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr., D-Camden, would require health insurance coverage of therapies for those on the autism spectrum, create the Office of the Advocate for Persons with Autism in the Department of the Public Advocate, establish an state-sponsored autism Web site, create voluntary identification cards for autistics, allow guardians to have better choice in what support services are given to those with autism and urge the state Board of Education to create a student peer program for students with autism." (With all of the state's budget troubles, I wonder if this will get funded.)

There is also an article by Michael Amsel about a local doctor who realized as an adult that he has Asperger's Syndrome. Dr. Henry Kong wrote a book about his experiences called "More Self Than Self: At Autism's Edge".

Finally, there was also a brief USA Today item by Steve Sternberg (Gannett, who owns the Asbury Park Press, also publishes USA Today) article on research into genetic mutations that boost one's probability of having autism.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Genius Genes

This article in the United Kingdom's Telegraph by Colin Blakemore reviews a new book by Irish psychiatrist Michael Fitzgerald. Called Genius Genes: How Asperger Talents Changed the World, it poses the following conundrum:

"As both our knowledge of human genetics and our ability to modify genetic function advance, we shall have to face up to the question of what constitutes normality and what defines a disease.
The richness of humanity and the power of our culture are, in no small way, attributable to the diversity of our minds. Do we want a world in which the creativity linked to the oddness at the fringes of normality is medicated away?"

Saturday, February 16, 2008

People with Autism Sought by Microsoft

Cliff Saran posts at that Microsoft has hired people with autism through a Danish consultant as software checkers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Larry King

The Thursday, February 14th episode of Larry King Live will feature Jason MacElwain ("J-Mac"), Holly Robinson Peete, Doug Flutie, and Toni Braxton to "bust the myths and present breakthroughs" about autism.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Social Skills Site

A 27 year old Canadian man named Chris, who describes himself as a "(mostly) recovered shy, awkward guy" has created a website filled with practical advice for young adults seeking to improve their social skills. It includes a whole page devoted to high school. Also includes a blog noting recent updates.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Study Links Autism to Immune System

Carrie Peyton Dahlberg reports in the Sacramento Bee about a UC Davis study that found "11 genes, all governing "natural killer" immune cells, that are more active in autistic children than in other youngsters."

Researchers Frank Sharp and Jeff Gregg are part of the M.I.N.D. Institute, which is currently doing a lot of research on autism.

Autism in Girls

ABC's Nightline did a special report on autism in girls, reported by John Donovan.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Series: Our Children's Brains

Here is an interesting series of articles mostly put together by reporter Robbie Woliver of the Long Island Press. Includes topics like Auditory Processing Disorder, autism, and Asperger's, along with other issues like depression in children.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Summary of Research

This article by in Ashley Pettus Harvard Magazine provides a nice overview of research on possible causes of autism spectrum disorders. This sounds intriguing:
"The researchers are paying particular attention to networks of genetic activity that affect 12 genes already known to play a role in autism. These are genes that regulate the brain’s response to environmental stimuli, affecting learning and memory by regulating the plasticity of connections between neurons. Here, the work of Michael Greenberg, professor of neurology and neuroscience and director of neurobiology at Children’s Hospital, has been critical. Greenberg looks at animals to examine how experience shapes the formation and refinement of synapses during brain development. He believes that autism-spectrum disorders may result from flaws in synapse development that affect the brain’s ability to process incoming signals. During the first years of postnatal development, trillions of synapses form in the brain as a child interacts with his or her surroundings; many synapses that aren’t needed naturally fall away, while others are strengthened. One possibility, Greenberg suggests, is that this pruning process doesn’t happen effectively in people with autism."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Using Second Life

Ashley Phillips at ABC News reports on researchers using Second Life to aid in the improvement of social skils for people with Asperger's Syndrome.
"As a treatment, professionals that include occupational therapists and psychiatrists take patients through a series of exercises, in groups and individually, designed to help them learn social skills. In the center's new therapy, patients may have a job interview with a "boss" character or learn to ask another avatar out on a date. "

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Study on Genetic Links to Autism

In an editorial by Evan Eichler and Andrew Zimmerman, The New England Journal of Medicine says:
"It has become clear that the solutions to autism will be neither simple nor uniform among patients with various autistic syndromes. At least 60 different genetic, metabolic, and neurologic disorders have been associated with autism and involve approximately 10% of patients, whose clinical presentations frequently vary, even among those with known disorders...these examples highlight a different paradigm for the genetic basis of autism. Rather than being an inherited disease, autism may be the result of many independent loci that rarely delete or duplicate during gamete production. Collectively, such de novo events might contribute significantly to the disease and explain why few genetic loci have been confirmed with the use of traditional linkage-based approaches...The discovery of significant associations for the rarer loci may require the screening of tens of thousands of DNA samples from patients rather than a few thousand samples. Deeper sample collection and new cost-effective genomic techniques may be needed..."

This is how mainstream media is reporting it:
"A rare genetic variation dramatically raises the risk of developing autism, a large study showed, opening new research targets for better understanding the disorder and for treating it..."

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

PBS Doc Premieres Tonight

"Today's Man", a documentary about a man named Nicky Gottlieb with Asperger's Syndrome, will be premiering tonight on most PBS stations. Here is an article by Felicia R. Lee about filmmaker Lizzie Gottlieb, Nicky's sister, from the New York Times. The PBS website for the film contains more information and a link to local listings.

Interview with "Unstrange Minds" author

Here's a highly interesting interview with Roy Richard Grinker, the author of Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism, on the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website. The interview was conducted by Benjamin Radford.
Some excerpts:
"I wrote Unstrange Minds so that people can see that autism is universal and that autism awareness is increasing everywhere in the world. But the most important reason for writing the book—though this was not my original intention—was to tell the world a simple message: the increase in autism diagnoses is not a crisis but rather evidence that we’re finally beginning to address a kind of human difference that has for too long been misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and mismanaged. More than six decades after autism was first described by Leo Kanner, we’re finally getting it right, and counting it right."
"I thought I could articulate some of the cultural and scientific reasons behind the increase in rates and give a positive message: the higher rates are due to positive changes in the way we understand and treat neurological and psychiatric disorders."
"The reality is that (1) the higher rates mean that autism is a bigger public health issue than we ever realized; and (2) there is nothing mutually exclusive about saying there’s no epidemic and at the same saying that we’ve finally figured out what’s going on with people on the autism spectrum, and we need more research and services. I recently received an e-mail from a parent who decried my stance: “How can you say there is no epidemic of autism?” she wrote. “When I was in school, there were no kids with special needs in my school. Today, in my daughter’s school there are dozens.” Actually, that is my point. In the past autistic people were not included in our schools. Today they are. And that’s a very good thing.
Another big misconception is that autism is somehow new. I am frequently asked: If there is no epidemic, then where are all the adults with autism? The answer is easy, but also complicated. Finding adults with autism is very hard, not because they do not exist but because they are dispersed in our society. Some live in group homes, others in institutions, others are living and working among us in our everyday lives. Kids are easy to count because they are all in school, neatly recorded in school records. But adults are a different story."

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Yale Child Study Center Director in NJ

For anyone in the area, Dr. Ami Klin, director of the Autism Program at the Yale Child Study Center, will present a free program on ASDs and AS on Wednesday, Jan. 23, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Adath Israel Congregation, 1958 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrence.
More details can be found here.
He is also presenting an all day workshop for educators the following day for $75.00.